Palo Alto Weekly

News - June 28, 2013

Around Town

CASHING IN ... Palo Alto officials are wrestling with a wonderful dilemma: a $44 million pool of funds and plenty of discretion about how to spend it. The money, which was provided by the Stanford University Medical Center, is part of the development agreement the city signed with Stanford two years ago to enable Stanford's giant expansion of its hospital facilities. This week, the City Council's Policy and Services Committee laid out a process for deciding on how to spend this money. The committee emphasized this week that they would like to focus on long-lasting infrastructure projects and that they would like to avoid spending the money on operational costs or setting up an endowment. As part of the new process, the council will have a "master list" of priority projects that it will review every year as part of the budget process until the pool of funds is exhausted — a process that committee members expect to take five to 10 years. Committee members also emphasized one major difference between the Stanford funds and the city's normal capital-improvement program: The latter is largely used for routine maintenance. The former allows the council to dream big. "The Stanford money is like you've just come into a big inheritance and now you can afford to fix up your house and maybe add another room or something," Councilman Larry Klein said. "That's how I see the Stanford money."

MUSIC TO THEIR EARS ... Student musicians from Gunn High School will travel to Chicago this December to perform in what teachers Sandra Lewis and Todd Summers say is arguably the "highest honor a school music program can receive." The competitive Annual Midwest Clinic attracts more than 15,000 teachers and students each year. More than half the music to be performed by the Gunn Orchestra will be music composed within the past year, to help give educators new ideas and techniques, said Lewis. "We have a mixed level of musical abilities but with great commitment we have formed a musical ensemble that works really hard to perform pieces at a very high level," she said. "My students are the best."

BRIDGING THE CREATIVE GAP ... Palo Alto leaders want their new bike bridge to be many things — elegant, eco-friendly, unique, eye-catching, and above all affordable. One thing they don't want it to be is just another bridge. Another thing they don't want, in the words of City Councilman Pat Burt, is a "Bay Bridge Mini-me." But these restrictions notwithstanding, council members signaled on Monday, June 24, that they would like to see a wider-than-usual range of design options for the bridge that will span U.S. Highway 101 at Adobe Creek and agreed to launch a design competition. While appreciating the wealth of creativity that the competition will hopefully spur, council members stressed the need to set reasonable criteria that would both be consistent with the city's values and keep the project within the budget. "I don't want someone to design a great bridge that will cost $100 million," Councilman Larry Klein said. But others also indicated that they would like the new bridge to be a visible landmark and an attractive destination. Councilwoman Liz Kniss, who as former Santa Clara County supervisor played a leading role in getting the city a $4 million county grant, pointed to Cupertino's cable-strayed Mary Avenue bike bridge, which spans Interstate 280 and which lights up at night. "It's a very pretty look," Kniss said while a photo of the lit-up bridge was displayed on the screen in the Chambers. "It's rather elegant. I think of us as a rather elegant city. We should have that kind of a bridge."

DOGGED BY DITHERING ... When Palo Alto officials and voters approved the construction of an underground reservoir at El Camino Park in 2007, their focus was on emergency preparedness, not dog walkers and walking trails. But now, six years later, plans for the park are continuing to evolve, and evolve, and evolve. Over the past two years, ever since construction of the reservoir kicked off, the City Council has been making fresh revisions the project, directing staff to look for ways to add a dog park and to consider a location for a historic building that needs to be relocated. Finally, the city staff is getting impatient and is urging the council to make a final decision on the park design soon. If the council wants to proceed with placing the building and the dog park at El Camino Park, it should provide direction by Aug. 12, a new report from the Community Services Department states. The park is currently scheduled to reopen to the public in July 2015.

Comments

Posted by member, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 28, 2013 at 10:35 pm

Just wondering when the power lines are going to be placed underground. The idea of grounding the wires was touted at least 40 years, I think. Now the city seems to have enough funds to implement this. Just wondering... about upgrading the aged sewage system, too. Seems like Palo Alto's aged infrastructure could use some upgrading, or rather maintenance instead of unnecessary buildings.


Posted by Cops?, a resident of Midtown
on Jun 28, 2013 at 11:06 pm

Perhaps we should hire more cops instead of spending it on discretionary projects? Public safety would seem to be the logical use of those funds.


Posted by CrescentParkAnon., a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 29, 2013 at 10:53 am

How about citywide internet ... fiberoptic or whatever?
That would be a smart investment in the future.


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